Understanding Authority

Decorative Scales Of Justice In The Courtroom

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Matthew 16:19 (NIV)

In the Christian realm, before the believer can be an effective channel for God’s power, take action, issue commands, and respond in obedience to Him, the believer needs to understand the authority structure and parameters within which she or he operates. Failure to understand the lines of authority and accountability established by God makes a believer a handicap and a hindrance in the Lord’s work. Thus believers must learn to use their authority and obey God’s authority correctly. For if believers act independently of the established divine authority, they cannot fight effectively in the spiritual battle to destroy the works of Satan and advance the kingdom of God on earth.

With this in mind let’s consider the authority structure and the parameters of authority established by God:

The Structure of Authority.

In the beginning God gave Adam and Eve authority to rule over and subdue everything on the face of the earth (cf. Genesis 1:27-28). But mankind’s authority over the sky, land and sea was ripped away by the wiles of Satan in the guise of a serpent. Because Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil mankind became underlings in Satan’s kingdom and the earth was subjected to satanic corruption (cf. Genesis 3).

For thousands of years Satan’s authority predominated over the earth. Most people died spiritually in sin and the earth was defiled. Isaiah 24:4-6 graphically describes the chaos, “The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the exalted of the earth languish. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.”

But God stepped in to end Satan’s authority on the earth. He sent His Son to serve notice on Satan that the authority he usurped was going to be taken away from him. Luke 4:5-8 describes this encounter. After Jesus had fasted for forty days, the devil led Him “up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendour, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” The battle lines were drawn. When Jesus said, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only,” He was essentially saying to Satan, “You may think you have authority over the earth but it’s only temporary because God has supreme authority over you and everything He’s created.”

From thereon out Satan did his utmost to do Christ in. It was a power struggle second to none. Satan was no fool, he knew his authority over the earth was threatened. Calling on everything at his disposal Satan dealt with the challenge by killing the challenger. Jesus was crucified at Calvary. But Satan was self-deceived. What he meant for harm, God turned to good. After His death, Jesus descended into Hell and stripped Satan’s authority from him, triumphing over him once for all (cf. Colossians 2:15). As Jesus confirmed shortly before His ascension, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” Matthew 28:18. Jesus had done what Adam had failed to do, retain the authority to subdue the earth (cf. Romans 5:14-15; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49).

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45), God gave mankind a second chance. For having stripped Satan of the authority he had usurped, Christ was now able to restore to believers the original authority to rule over and subdue everything on the face of the earth.

However, even though Christians once again have authority over everything that moves on the face of the earth there is still a struggle. Satan, although divested of his authority, wants the authority back. Satan still has his power, and even without the authority, he continues trying to do what he’s always done – wrestle authority away from mankind.

The parameters of authority.

God has always been and continues to be the Supreme Authority. Everything in the heavens and the earth come under His authority. That includes all angels, demons, and spiritual forces of evil as well as men and women from every tribe and tongue and nation.

God gives the marching orders and we must act on His Word. In other words, the authority we have is delegated authority. We can do nothing on our own authority, but only what God tells us to do, i.e. we must do the will of God. Jesus taught that the proper way to use authority is to come under God’s authority. In John 5:19 He says, “The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

Satan, like everything else created by God, is under God’s authority. Satan has no authority on earth but continues to have limited liberty on earth. Satan does everything in his power to try and make us believe he has authority, but he doesn’t. Satan still has authority over his demonic kingdom in the “heavenly realms” [Note: The “heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12), are an inferior heaven or unseen world outside of earth’s atmosphere which is the habitat of Satan and his hierarchy of evil spirits. Some theologians refer to it as the Second heaven to distinguish it from the “highest heavens” (Nehemiah 9:6) where the Lord is seated on His throne and surrounded by His hierarchy of angels and spiritual beings]. When Christ returns Satan will be seized, locked up, and sealed in the Abyss (cf. Revelation 20:1-3). After Christ’s thousand year reign on earth Satan will be released from his prison for a short while then thrown into the lake of burning sulfur and tormented day and night for ever and ever (cf. Revelation 20:7-10).

Jesus, having triumphed over Satan, has transferred the authority to rule and subdue the earth back to believers. To the degree that believers humbly submit to Jesus’ authority they are given power to carry on His ministry and build His kingdom (cf. Matthew 28:18-20; John 14:12). Jesus strengthens and protects believers from Satan (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:3).

Believers do not have authority over the heavenly realms – that’s God’s arena. There’s no Biblical precedent for believers to say, “I bind you, Satan.” Satan will be bound by Jesus when He returns (cf. Revelation 20:1-3). Believers have authority over demons, principalities and powers operating in the earthly realm (cf. Matthew 10:7-8; Mark 16:17).

The key to victory over Satan’s schemes is to “submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” James 4:7. Resist the devil by putting “on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” Ephesians 6:13-18.

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